Authorities in Visegrad set to destroy a memorial to Pionirska live pyre victims

Photo of the Pionisrka Street, house. Courtesy of Professor David Pettigrew.
Photo of the Pionisrka Street, house. Courtesy of Professor David Pettigrew.

A house in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, in which dozens of people were burned alive by convicted war criminals Milan and Sredoje Lukic is about to be destroyed due to the construction of a road.

On October 12th I wrote an article on the continued struggle of Victims Associations in Visegrad to stop the destruction of the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre which took the lives of 53 people. Among the victims of the Pionirska Street fire where a seventy-five-year-old woman, six children between the ages of two and four years old, and a two-day-old infant. According to Mujo Fejzic, a Bosniak member of the Visegrad Municipality: “someone has deliberately extended the zone of expropriation by 4-5 meters at the exact place where the house is. Also it is the only house scheduled for destruction.” According to victim´s associations in Bosnia, this is an attempt at physically removing any traces of war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. Sadly the efforts by the Victims Associations have not been successful. On 16th November Al Jazzera Balkans reported that the municipality in the now predominantly Serb town had decided to destroy the house, which is in the middle of re-construction, started by survivors of the Visegrad genocide and Victims Associations.

This article appeared on Aljazzera Balkans on 16th November.

Source : Aljazzera Balkans.

On June 14th 1992 on Pionirska Street in Visegrad 65 people were forced into a basement of a hose. They were told by Milan Lukić and Mitar Vasiljević that they would be safe there, after that the two men proceeded to rob the women old people and children of any and all valuables, such as jewelry and money and then set fire to the house, burning the victims alive. According to the verdict in the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic, the two cousins stood by and fired rounds into those who had managed to escape the fire. Two people managed to escape, a mother and her son.

After she ran out of the burning house she just managed to run the short distance between the house and the sewage drain where she hid, it´s across that drain that the municipality plans to build the road. “I fell into the sewage drain; I spent three days and three nights there. My wounds were infected, I just barely managed to pull myself out of there and head to Kosovo Polje neighborhood, Bakira washed me of and gave me a fresh change of clothes.”

Bakiras struggle

Bakira Hasecic president of the Women Victims of War Association is engaged in a legal struggle with municipality in Visegrad. After she had received information that the authorities had decided to extend the construction of the road so that it runs right thru where the remnants of house lie now, Bakira decided to re-build the house, and turn the basement into a memorial to the victims of the live pyre. She received the permission for that from the owner of the house Sumbula Zeba, who now lives in the US.

However despite that, a building inspector in the municipality, Ljiljana Ćiković decided that a building permit was needed and told Bakira Hasecic to stop all the construction on the house and return the house to its previous condition, meaning a ruin. According to Bakira Hasecic, when she tried to explain what had happened in the house, in order to get Ljiljana Ćiković to understand why it was being re-built Mrs Ćiković told Bakira to; “stop with your fairytales” and that she “was sick of listening to them.”

Bakira Hasecic feels it´s strange that the building inspector in the municipality wants her to apply for a building permit given it´s not a question of building a new house, but a re-construction of an already existing property. It´s also odd that the municipality went forward with the expropriation of the property without informing the owner, Sumbula Zeba.

According to Bakira Hasecic; last year on 17th of November the first discussion about the expropriation of the property was held in the municipality. It was agreed upon that if the expropriation was in for the good of the community then, it could go ahead. A portion of the property would be allocated for the building of the road, given that it bypassed the house.

Al Jazeera wanted to hear other side of the story too. In this case the representatives of the municipality and the building inspection.

“We could not reach Ljiljana Ćiković and head of the building inspection in the municipality. Even though a day earlier we were told that they would talk to us about this matter” Mrs Ćiković was apparently away on duty and could not be reached. According to Al Jazzera reporter Vladimir Bobetić; “given that the two people in question could not be reached, they have left a lot of room for speculation about the decision to stop the re-construction of the house on Pionirska Street, and that it could perhaps have to do with reasons other than strictly those concerning urban development.”

For those that survived the live pyre on Pionirska Street, the attempt to destroy the house in which 65 people were set on fire is simply an extension of that crime. “How do I feel? If it wasn´t for my medicine I would implode,” says one witness. On the day on Al Jazeera visited Bakira Hasecic, the work on the house was in still moving forward. Bakira put in windows and curtains; she wanted everyone to know, that life was returning to the house on Pionirska Street.

See also: Bikavac Live Pyre

The Guardian on Milan Lukic : The warlord of Visegrad

BLOODY TRAIL OF BUTCHERY AT THE BRIDGE; Bosnia the secret war. By Ed Vulliamy

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